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Packed Sportsground shows GAA how itÕs done



Date Published: {J}

IT’S something of a sporting phenomenon what is happening at the Sportsground these days. Supporters tend to gradually desert teams which lose on a consistent basis but, to say the least, Connacht are bucking that trend. Over 7,000 turned up at the College Road venue last Saturday night which is a record crowd for a league match at the venue since rugby went professional.

Granted, visitors Munster represented a big draw in their own right and they do have a strong travelling support base, but many of their marquee names were missing, including Ronan O’Gara, Paul O’Connell, Keith Earls and Donncha O’Callaghan. Still, the fans flocked to the Sportsground and the venue was heaving with both excitement and atmosphere before the kick off.

Did we ever think that we would see the days that the attendance at a Connacht match would exceed – by some distance – the combined crowd which turned up to see the Galway hurlers and footballers in action on the same weekend? Sure, Alan Mulholland’s squad had to face Monaghan in the neutral surrounds of Pearse Park on Sunday, but there was scarcely 600 people at the Longford venue, while the crowd in Pearse Stadium for the hurlers’ league battle with Waterford was less than 4,000.

There is no question now that Connacht have managed to capture a dedicated and growing support base despite their lack of success on the field of play . . . and you have got to admire the local branch of the IRFU and their marketing department for making it fashionable to head to the Sportsground on a Friday and Saturday evening, especially in a difficult economic environment not to mind an unenviable losing record.

Take this season, for instance. Connacht have played 18 Rabo Direct Pro12 games, but have only won four of them, while their sole success in six outings in the Heineken Cup came at home against Harlequins. On average, they are being beaten in four out of every five matches, but still the fans come and whether local GAA people like it or not, Connacht are currently the best supported team in the county at this time of year.

Sure, as already outlined, they don’t win very often even against teams who are shorn their international contingent and their squad has a fair sprinkling of overseas players, but that misses the point. There is an acknowledgement that Connacht continue to punch above their weight despite their restricted budget, while the ‘match day’ experience at the Sportsground tends to be a rollicking evening out.


The floodlights create atmosphere in their own right, while the overdue revamping of the grounds had enhanced the experience of supporters as well. Of course, we can’t lose sight of the fact either that nine times out of ten, the Connacht players push themselves to the point of exhaustion in trying to overcome overwhelming odds. They tend to be heroic in defeat and fans like to see players repeatedly putting their bodies on the line even when they regularly keep falling short.

Though Connacht’s results are getting no better, they have been consistently been more competitive this season than ever. They performed better than expected in their historic Heineken Cup venture and have been somewhat unlucky not have picked up three or four more wins in the Rabo Direct Pro12. Last Saturday night was the latest example as they ought to have beaten an admittedly understrength Munster in terms of possession and territory alone. It was a contest of high intensity and Connacht fought bravely to the bitter end. In other words, supporters again got their money’s worth.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Galway in Days Gone By

The way we were – Protecting archives of our past



A photo of Galway city centre from the county council's archives

People’s living conditions less than 100 years ago were frightening. We have come a long way. We talk about water charges today, but back then the local District Councils were erecting pumps for local communities and the lovely town of Mountbellew, according to Council minutes, had open sewers,” says Galway County Council archivist Patria McWalter.

Patria believes we “need to take pride in our history, and we should take the same pride in our historical records as we do in our built heritage”. When you see the wealth of material in her care, this belief makes sense.

She is in charge of caring for the rich collection of administrative records owned by Galway County Council and says “these records are as much part of our history as the Rock of Cashel is. They document our lives and our ancestors’ lives. And nobody can plan for the future unless you learn from the past, what worked and what didn’t”.

Archivists and librarians are often unfairly regarded as being dry, academic types, but that’s certainly not true of Patria. Her enthusiasm is infectious as she turns the pages of several minute books from Galway’s Rural District Councils, all of them at least 100 years old.

Part of her role involved cataloguing all the records of the Councils – Ballinasloe, Clifden, Galway, Gort, Loughrea, Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam. These records mostly consisted of minutes of various meetings.

When she was cataloguing them she realised their worth to local historians and researchers, so she decided to compile a guide to their content. The result is For the Record: The Archives of Galway’s Rural District Councils, which will be a valuable asset to anybody with an interest in history.

Many representatives on these Councils were local personalities and several were arrested during the political upheaval of the era, she explains.

And, ushering in a new era in history, women were allowed to sit on these Rural District Councils – at the time they were not allowed to sit on County Councils.

All of this information is included in Patria’s introductory essay to the attractively produced A4 size guide, which gives a glimpse into how these Rural Councils operated and the way political thinking changed in Ireland during a short 26-year period. In the early 1900s, these Councils supported Home Rule, but by 1920, they were calling for full independence and refusing to recognise the British administration.

“I love the tone,” says Patria of the minutes from meetings. “The language was very emotive.”

That was certainly true of the Gort Rural District Council. At a meeting in 1907, following riots in Dublin at the premiere of JM Synge’s play, The Playboy of the Western World the councillors’ response was vehement. They recorded their decision to “protest most emphatically against the libellous comedy, The Playboy of the Western World, that was belched forth during the past week in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, under the fostering care of Lady Gregory and Mr Yeats. We congratulate the good people of Dublin in howling down the gross buffoonery and immoral suggestions that are scattered throughout this scandalous performance.


For more from the archives see this week’s Tribunes here

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Archive News

Real Galway flavour to intermediate club hurling battle in Birr



Date Published: 23-Jan-2013


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Archive News

Athenry fail to take chances as they bow out of Junior Cup



Date Published: 29-Jan-2013

Athenry FC 1

Kilbarrack United 2

(After extra time)

For the second year in succession Athenry were done in extra time in the FAI Junior Cup as last season’s beaten finalist’s came from behind to snatch an excellent game in Moanbawn on Sunday afternoon.

On a heavy pitch that was only playable following extensive groundwork by club officials all morning, the home side were by far the better side in the opening half, but failed to take advantage of a number of opportunities that came their way.

An Alan O’Donovan penalty gave them a merited advantage just after the restart, but thereafter were on the back foot as Kilbarrack took over, but for all their pressing, the home rearguard were dealing comfortably with their forays.

However they were struck a body blow just six minutes from time, as big striker Keith Kirwan was left all alone at the far post to head the equaliser and from that point on the Dubliners were the better side.

They started off the extra time in the ascendancy and enjoying all the momentum before striking for a good winning goal on 104 minutes. A strong bench allowed them to make some necessary changes and it was not a facility that was available to Athenry manager Gabriel Glavin.

With Gary Forde and Gary Delaney out through suspension following their sending off against OLBC in the previous round, and Seamie Crowe injured, it left their bench rather threadbare with just a number of young squad players available.

Playing with the aid of the slight incline and any wind advantage going, the home side had a Connor Cannon effort on target in the opening minute, while John Meleady was just over with a flick at the other end.

Meleady then tested Andrew Walsh who saved comfortably, before the goalkeeper pulled off a brilliant double save on 14 minutes.

Firstly he went full length to push away a Meleady shot and was then back on his feet to parry David Jackson’s close-range rebound.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Sentinel.

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